As a beauty junkie I am always gathering samples, which typically come with online purchases. I thought it would be fun to share my first impressions on a week’s worth of samples and let you know whether or not I plan to purchase a full size of the products. For quick reference, WNR stands for Would Not Repurchase/Recommend and WR is Would Repurchase/Recommend.
- Robert Graham Courage ($125*): For full disclosure, I do currently represent this line for work. I did a mini review last month for Fortitude, which I like but don’t love. However, I can fully get behind Courage! Not only is the aviation theme of the packaging absolutely precious, but the scent is just so me; fresh, aquatic, and masculine. The notes are vodka, lime, and guaiac wood. It bears similarity to Bleu de Chanel, Light Blue pour Homme, and even Eternity for Men. A fantastic youthful summer scent, sure to delight all who try. Combination niche and designer. WR
- Jul et Mad Paris Secrets du Paradis Rouge ($205*): I used to be a big fan of this brand, until it expanded and I lost my sense of direction within it. What began with three unique, beautiful, luxurious fragrances in 2012 has turned into 11 fragrances and two separate lines. And while I can hardly begrudge Julien and Madalina their deserved success, I find myself longing for the simpler days, when it was just them, their lovely story, and a few irreplaceable juices. Secrets du Paradis is a return to those origins, and in a word, surprising. Fragrantica.com member “muskymoi” put it nicely: “gorgeous smokey citrusy heliotropey gourmand.” It’s a bit of everything but the kitchen sink, but there’s a method to the madness. Inspired by the Moroccan city of Marrekesh, the main notes are orange, orange blossom, honey, patchouli, almond, musk, and bitter woods. Rather animalic and dirty, but subtly sweet. Gives me Kilian Back to Black vibes, or anything Guerlain. I think this is a great first step at reclaiming what has been lost in the process of growth, but it would simply do me no use in my collection. WNR
- Acqua Di Parma Rosa Nobile ($216*): This is part of ADP’s “Nobile” collection, which pays tribute to different flowers. Rose is, of course, the focus of Rosa Nobile, and not just any rose but a specific kind that only grows in Italy and can be harvested exclusively in the spring at its peak. What I find so surprising about Rosa Nobile (beyond the unjustified price, mind) is that the rose note, if it exists, plays such a minor, unnoticeable role in the overall composition that it is an insult to the other components to make it the namesake. I would name any number of other sweet blooming flowers before ever getting to rose, as well as the distinctly warm yet putrid smell of ambergris and a couple of citruses. When I do find the rose, it is sadly nothing to gag over. I don’t get it. WNR
- MAISON MARGIELA ’REPLICA’ By The Fireplace ($135*): This particular L’Oreal line aspires to be niche, but I must say that after they settle, the majority of their fragrances are really ho-hum. By The Fireplace, which is meant to evoke memories of burning wood and chestnut, really does open with a genuine burnt wood effect, like a “morning after the tragedy” kind of smell. Interesting? Sure. Wearable? Not so sure. But give it an hour and you’re left with a slight woodsy, sweet vanilla thing that went from super pyromaniac-masculine to teenage girl in sixty minutes. What’s frustrating is I’ve seen men buy this impulsively after smelling the top notes only, but I dare say they’re in for an unpleasant surprise when they get home. I would skip the whole thing entirely and go for their Beachwalk scent, which is a lot more wearable and linear, though I will say they truly perfected the vanilla accord here, and hope it will get recycled into something better in the future. WNR
- LXMI Crème du Nil Pore-Refining Moisture Veil ($118*): I really, really wanted to like this all-natural, vegan face cream. The brand claims that it sources all its ingredients from the Nile region in Africa, giving work to impoverished women. The cream itself is supposedly 25% more potent in fatty acids than traditional beauty oils, and exfoliates while it hydrates. And while I found it to be lightweight yet hydrating, I truly hated the scent. It smelled rotten to me, and other reviewers have pointed this out as well. Maybe it was just my sample? I would give this another shot because I’m a sucker for a good story and quality ingredients, but right now all I want is to wash it off! As an alternative, try Renewed Hope in a Jar from Philosophy, which also exfoliates while it hydrates (and it’s scent-free!). WNR
- Lancôme Energie de Vie the Melt-In Sleeping Mask ($92*): Another one I wanted to like, but just can’t. On the opposite side of the LXMI, this night cream felt and smelled wonderful. Really light yet hydrating, and fresh scent. However, just take a look at the ingredients; it contains more table salt – I repeat, drying, abrasive TABLE SALT – alcohol, and preservatives than any actual natural and active ingredients. And those few that did make it into the formula include hydrolyzed soy protein, which is a prominent component of your dog’s pet food. Overall, this formula is far from worth the money, and I am going to be extra cautious of this line in the future. Just goes to show how important it is to truly understand a label. WNR
- Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($38*): In the past I haven’t loved what I’ve tried from Clinique, and I really didn’t like the Take the Day Off Micellar Cleansing Towelettes for Face & Eyes, but I gave this makeup remover a shot one late (late) night when I realized I was out of any other wipes and didn’t feel like doing a double-cleanse with my Clarins Cleansing Milk with Alphine Herbs. The general consensus on this product is that it works, and that’s about it; no bells or whistles about it. I concede that this scentless balm-to-oil makeup remover does a great job at removing even waterproof mascara quickly, and I enjoyed the slick texture on my dry skin. Its primary ingredient is a palm oil derivative, and we all know the problems with palm oil. Other components include safflower seed oil, coconut oil mixed with glycerin, an emulsifying agent, two other emulsifiers made from plastic (red flag for sensitive skin and the environment-concerned), a synthetic preservative that is generally safe but must NOT be used on the lips, and the antioxidant vitamin E. I feel I could get around my trepidation for the questionable ingredients if Clinique offered a good enough gift with purchase (which they pretty much always do), and if that makes me a sellout, so be it. If you’re looking for a higher-end remover, this is a pretty decent option. WR
Have you tried any of these products? What have you been loving this season?
*Prices true at time of writing.
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